It was during my sophomore year in high school when I first spoke in tongues. I had no experience like the apostle Paul did when he was on the road to Damascus. There were no bells or whistles. There was no lightning bolt. And there was no rushing wind (Acts 2:2) to signify the occasion. But, as I look back now, God has been working in my life since I was a small boy.
When I was nine years old I became a Christian and gave my life to Jesus Christ. It took place on the playground of the high school that was about two blocks from my house in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. I had just finished third grade in May, 1948, and I was attending a Vacation Bible School held at the playground that June. About twenty of us children sat on moveable bleachers. There we listened to the VBS teacher, who was about twenty years old, tell us the Gospel story and encourage us to ask Jesus into our hearts.
I have always regretted that I didn’t get her name and didn’t thank her for leading me to Christ. Becoming a Christian was the most significant experience in my entire life. It is impossible to tell you how my life has been affected by that decision.
I wasn’t baptized right away, because shortly after that event my dad was transferred by his employer, the Burlington Railroad (now the BNSF), to Portland, Oregon. There I attended fourth grade. Dad was transferred again in early 1951, this time to the Chicago area. We lived in Aurora, where I attended fifth grade through high school. I was baptized at the First Baptist Church in Aurora. On a trip to the Middle East with my dad, the pastor and the pastor’s son in the summer of 1960, I was baptized again--this time in the Jordan River!
Just before entering high school I traveled by train to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in Towanda, Pennsylvania. While in Towanda, I went with my Aunt Margie and my cousin Katie to their church. I was sitting in the second row from the back of the church. The pastor gave a sermon about speaking in tongues. During the service he asked those who wanted to receive the gift of tongues to come down to the front of the sanctuary.
Trying not to be seen, I slid down in my seat. I still remember what I was wearing--a black suit and my dad’s red knit tie. After a few minutes several people had gone down to the front. Then the pastor pointed directly at me, saying, “You in the red tie, come down front.” I went down front. There I was, along with perhaps a dozen or so others.
The pastor prayed for all of us to receive the gift of speaking in tongues. We did. It was one of the most spiritually uplifting things that ever happened to me. I have been asked many times what I was saying. My answer is that I don’t know. My sense is that the language could not be understood by man. The prayer was private and only God could understand it.
On the ride home from church my cousin Katie and I sat in the back seat. I was still so filled with the Holy Spirit, that I said, "It’s hard for me to speak in English”. The ability to speak in tongues remained with me until I left Towanda to return home.
Twice since that time I have been praying in normal English but suddenly have spoken in tongues. Both times I was by myself and both times were more than thirty years after my Towanda experience. Once I was at home when I lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the other when I was driving alone to Aurora, Illinois, to see my dad, who was very ill.
At Pentecost the apostles were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Holy Spirit “was giving them utterance”( Acts 2:4). The crowd was amazed and bewildered, as each heard the message in his own language. As is written in Acts 2:8-11, “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?...we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”